Other Countries Probably Wish They Could Suck Like America Does
Would somebody please get the message to Barbara Ehrenreich already?
Look, we've got problems, and plenty of stuff in need of changing in America, but all in all, it's better to be American than a citizen of any other country. Beyond the fact that this is a country where poor people have cars and dishwashers, just look at freedom of speech. We have miles and miles of free speech:
photo by Gregg Sutter
Think other countries have free speech, too, to the extent we do? Think again -- as Maclean's in Canada is dragged to a kangaroo court on a supposed "human rights violation" because Mark Steyn wrote, in a book excerpt Maclean's published, about Islam's threat to the west.
Sorry, but you violate somebody's human rights when you punch them in the nose -- or blow them up or behead them -- not when you, boohoo, float the idea that their backward and primitive beliefs are a threat to western culture and Enlightenment values...which, by the way, Muslim beliefs absolutely are...starting with the Quran directive to convert or kill the infidel (that would be us).
But, back to Barbara E., here she is again, whimpering about what terrible place America is in her latest book. Laura Vanderkam lays bare the ridiculousness in City Journal:
Writing about the prospects of young college grads, she says, "My son followed up his Ivy League education with years of phone answering and fact-checking before joining me as one of the tiny number of self-supporting freelance writers who do not have the advantage of a trust fund." Answering phones? The horror!
Indeed, Ehrenreich herself is probably Exhibit Number One for the fact that there's a lot more to America than the "bleak landscape cluttered with boarded-up homes and littered with broken dreams" that she's intent on seeing. This is a country where a bright girl named Barbara from Butte, Montana, can grow up to become a best-selling author. And a black boy raised by a single mother can become the Democratic nominee for president. Such stories have no place in Ehrenreich's America. She falls into the trap of mourning "America's lost glory"--such as the golden age when Henry Ford made sure his workers could afford to buy his cars. These days, "the sad truth is that people earning Wal-Mart level wages tend to favor the fashions available at the Salvation Army." But Michigan's infant mortality rate for nonwhite babies in 1936 (Ford's heyday) was 71 deaths for every 1,000 live births. If that's a golden age, I prefer our current nightmare. Ehrenreich writes that she sang "America the Beautiful" as a child and "meant it," but during her childhood, Woody Guthrie was singing a verse of his classic tune (which she never mentions) about folks standing outside the relief office, wondering if this land was still made for them. Memo to Ehrenreich: It has always been fashionable to complain about how bad America is.
The truth is that since Ehrenreich's 1940s and 1950s childhood, American living standards have risen grandly. We are living longer and earning more. Yet in Ehrenreich's view, everything is falling apart, and America is about to "become one of those areas of the world prefixed by the mournful word former." It's a grim take--but thankfully, it's not universally shared. Senator Barack Obama, for instance, has described his own food-stamps-to-millionaire journey as evidence of what's right with America. Maybe in time the social critic who views herself as the champion of the working class will get the message, too.
This is this incredible place where, unlike in many countries in Europe, you aren't chained to a social station in life by virtue of who you were born to. I mean, look at Oprah and any number of other people who've come from nothing and who've gone on to a whole lot of something.
Oh, and P.S. I "tend to favor the fashions available at the Salvation Army." That's not a "sad truth." You can get some pretty groovy stuff there. In fact, somebody did a story on me for a libertarian magazine (not reason...and I think it'll be out before the end of the year), and for the photo, I wore a body-hugging denim Guess shirt I got at Salvation Army for $5, and a vintage necklace I bought on eBay for $3.